Alarm as asylum seeker youths go missing
12 July 2005
BRUSSELS — One in four youths who applied for asylum in Belgium in 2003 have gone missing, most of them within three months of their arrival.
The European Federation for Missing and Sexually Exploited Children, Child Focus, said on Tuesday 40 percent of the disappearances were “alarming”.
During the past two years, 683 asylum seekers under the age of 18 entered Belgium unaccompanied. Most of the youths were Africans.
Child Focus said on Tuesday 161 of them went missing, mostof them boys over the age of 16 from Eastern Europe, Southern Europe and Asia.
Almost all of those who disappeared had been sent to an asylum seeker centre, but 15 percent never arrived and 60 percent disappeared from the centre itself.
The organisation is urging improved monitoring of the situation and is demanding improved guidance of the children to shield them against human traders.
“The situation is especially delicate for 17-year-old asylum seekers. They know they will not enjoy the same protection anymore once they reach the age of 18,” Child Focus spokeswoman Stephanie de Smet told broadcaster VRT.
“As a consequence, some of them take to their heels. And there are other groups deserving extra attention, for example, young pregnant girls.”
Child Focus said more shelter centres should be set up to protect victims of human smugglers and pregnant girls.
Social Integration Minister Christian Dupont said the Neder-over-Heembeek and Steenokkerzeel refugee centres allow unaccompanied asylum seeker youths to settle and come to rest.
In that time period, Dupont said, it can be decided what accommodation facilities will best suit the asylum seeker in the long-term future.
The Child Focus investigation was conducted in association with the Belgian asylum seeker agency Fedasil on request from Dupont.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news